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Schumacher critical, outlook uncertain after fall

GRENOBLE, France (AP) -- Doctors treating Michael Schumacher refused Monday to predict an outcome for the seven-time Formula One champion, saying they were taking his critical head injury "hour by hour" following a skiing accident.

Chief anesthesiologist Jean-Francois Payen told reporters that Schumacher was still in a medically induced coma and doctors were focusing only on his current condition.

"We cannot predict the future for Michael Schumacher," said Payen, who is also in charge of Grenoble University Hospital's intensive-care unit.

"He is in a critical state in terms of cerebral resuscitation," he added. "We are working hour by hour."

Schumacher, the most successful driver in Formula One history, arrived at the Grenoble hospital a day earlier already in a coma and immediately underwent brain surgery.

The German driver was skiing with his son Sunday morning in the French Alpine resort of Meribel when he fell and hit the right side of his head on a rock. He was wearing a helmet, but doctors said it was not enough to prevent a serious brain injury.

Gerard Saillant, a trauma surgeon who operated on Schumacher when he broke his leg in a 1999 race crash, was at the hospital as a visitor. He told reporters that Schumacher's age - he turns 45 on Jan. 3 - and his fitness should work in his favor.

But the Grenoble medical team was being very cautious about Schumacher's prognosis. Working to relieve the pressure on his brain, they lowered his body temperature to between 34 and 35 degrees Celsius (93.2 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit) as part of the medically induced coma.

The neurology team at Grenoble University Hospital is recognized as among the best in France and the hospital, in a city that is the gateway to the French Alps, sees a large number of skiing accidents every year.

Schumacher has been seriously hurt before. He broke his leg in a crash at the Silverstone race course in 1999. He also suffered serious neck and spine injuries after a motorcycling accident in February 2009 in Spain.

The area where Schumacher was skiing is part of a web of trails that slice down through a vast and, in parts, very steep snowfield. Although challenging, the snowfield is not extreme skiing. The runs are broad and neatly tended, and the ungroomed area in between, known as off-piste - where the resort said Schumacher was found - is free of trees.

The resort said Schumacher was conscious when first responders arrived, although agitated and in shock. But Payen said Monday that after the fall Schumacher was not in a "normal state of consciousness." He was not responding to questions and his limbs appeared to be moving involuntarily.

He was airlifted to a local hospital and then later brought to Grenoble. Doctors said that stopover was typical and did not affect his condition.

His wife and other family members were by his bedside.

"The family is not doing very well obviously. They are shocked," said his manager Sabine Kehm, who added that the family still appreciated the outpouring of support.

The French prosecutor in Albertville has opened an investigation into the accident, according to the Mountain Gendarmerie in Bourg-Saint-Maurice, which will participate in the probe. The goal is to determine the circumstances of the accident and what was responsible for it.

Formula One drivers and fans rushed to wish Schumacher a quick recovery.

"Like millions of Germans, the chancellor and members of the government were extremely dismayed when they heard about Michael Schumacher's serious skiing accident," German Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said in Berlin.

Sebastian Vettel, for whom Schumacher was a boyhood idol, told German news agency dpa: "I am shocked and hope that he will get better as soon as possible."

Ferrari, which Schumacher raced for, expressed its concern in a statement.

"Everyone at Ferrari has been in a state of anxiety since hearing about Michael Schumacher's accident," it said, adding that company president, Luca di Montezemolo, and race team leader, Stefano Domenicali, were in contact with the family.

British former world racing champion Jenson Button said posted that his "thoughts are with Michael Schumacher at this tough time. ... Michael more than anyone has the strength to pull through this."

During his career, Schumacher won seven drivers' championships and 91 race wins. After initial success with the Benetton team, Schumacher moved to Ferrari and helped turn the Italian team into the sport's dominant force. After initially retiring in 2006, he made a comeback in 2010 and raced for three years with Mercedes.


DiLorenzo reported from Paris. Lori Hinnant in Paris, Geir Moulson in Berlin, AP Sports Writer John Leicester in Super-Besse, France, and Deborah Gouffran and Milos Krivokapic in Grenoble contributed to this report.

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JOHN W. BROWN December 31 2013 at 5:24 AM

Good luck and I hope it all comes out good.

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paul.wilson28 December 31 2013 at 3:32 AM

good luck michael hope you pull through, a true legend.

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thlnkdwll December 31 2013 at 3:19 AM

Sad news may our Eternal help him recover,because we are still in need of him in our planet,he is not symbolizing only the germans instead all of us.

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ajafullmn December 31 2013 at 3:08 AM

too sad. Do all the right things and die anyway. No chance of getting out of life alive.

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josephbryan3 December 31 2013 at 2:53 AM

How tragic. I had just heard about the passing of STP founder Andy Granitelli when news of Michael came. I am sure that all of auto racing, drivers, teams and fans alike, is saddened by the news. We can only hope he gets better. And as I sat down to write this I learned that Joe Leonard is in poor health. This December is not a good month for auto racing greats.

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lsheaffer December 31 2013 at 2:19 AM

How ironic that after seven world championships in a very dangerous sport, Schumacher should be seriously injured in a ski accident. Accidents like this and those that killed Sonny Bono and Michael Kennedy should remind us that skiing is also dangerous. Years ago I was injured twice while skiing, once when I fell and hit my hand on a rock and once when I sprained my ankle very badly when my binding popped open and my ski came off. Let's hope that Schumacher pulls through OK.

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Federico Mac December 31 2013 at 2:18 AM

Michael has lived on the FAST edge for a long time in warrior sports so danger is not new to him, he treats it with respect, but with skiing its difficult to analyze the all white terrain and the amount of snow packing until your right on top making it difficult to predict traction levels. It will probably take a while for him to recover, so I wish all taking care of him the best of luck, because sometime we all need a little of that once in a while.

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chrbloc December 31 2013 at 2:01 AM

wish it was jimmie johnson instead.

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shirlgr123 December 31 2013 at 2:21 AM

You are a rotten person to wish this accident on Jimmy. Whether you like a person or not you should not wish this on anyone but YOURSELF.

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Howard December 31 2013 at 1:58 AM

Best wishes and a speedy recovery

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bleuangelusa December 31 2013 at 12:55 AM

buona fortuna sei l'unico vero campione in pista e fuori.

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